Visual social preferences of lone zebrafish in a novel environment: strain and anxiolytic effects

Genes Brain Behav. 2012 Apr;11(3):366-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2012.00770.x. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have an innate tendency to join shoals. Based on this, we refined visual choice tests to focus on social interaction and novelty preference. Our design follows mouse three-chamber sociability protocols, except testing is conducted under 940 Lux fluorescent lighting. Initially, we compared performance among zebrafish strains: inbred (AB) or wild-crossbred (WIK) from Zebrafish International Resource Center, to golden and short-fin from Petco stores. AB fish exhibited a preference for shoaling; they dwelled longest near transparent boxes containing zebrafish, while short fin favored blue boxes without fish. AB and golden exhibited a strong preference for social novelty, not evident in short-fin or WIK fish. Serotonin and cannabinoids shape mammalian social behavior, and equivalents of both receptor types are expressed in the zebrafish brain. We examined the effects of the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN 55,212-2 (1 mg/l), or serotonin 5-HT(1A) receptor agonist buspirone (10 mg/l) on Petco short-fin social choice. Fish were bath exposed to test compounds for 10 min, under these conditions [(3) H]CP55,940 (4 nm) bound to brain with a concentration of 1.9-6.4 fmol/mg 5-30 min afterward. Social approach was measured 20 min after acclimation to the test arena. WIN 55,212-2 and buspirone increased dwelling near boxed zebrafish. In zebrafish whole-brain homogenates, buspirone displaced [(3) H] 8-hydroxy-N,N-dipropylaminotetralin (dissociation constant, K(D) = 16 ± 1.2 nm) with an inhibition constant (K(i) ) of 1.8 ± 1.0 nm lower than that of WAY 100,635 (K(i) ∼1000 nm). These fish social choice tests may enhance social behavior research, and are useful for studying the effects of genetic manipulations, pharmaceuticals or environmental toxins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Anxiety / genetics*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Species Specificity
  • Visual Perception / drug effects
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Zebrafish